Barack Obama doesn’t deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize… just yet

A distinctly modest looking Obama, back in July 2007 (flickr user: Llima)
A distinctly modest looking Obama, back in July 2007 (flickr user: Llima)

The announcement that Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize today came like a bolt out of the blue. How can a man who has been in office just nine months warrant such an accolade? Whilst I am completely pro-Obama, and think he’s getting an undeservedly harsh time in America over health care reform, this prize does seem absurd.

Obama had only been in office for two weeks when he was nominated for the award, and since then he has refused talks with the Dalai Llama (an earlier Nobel peace laureate) for fear of angering China. This is hardly the kind of behaviour that will bring about world peace. Obama has been  greatly ambitious in his aim of global nuclear disarmament, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about this, but so far (and I have to agree with the Saturday Night Live critics here) it is more talk than action.

Given three more years in office, Obama may well merit the Nobel Peace Prize. But giving it to him now, just as the honeymoon period wanes in the States, is surely evidence that the world is still celebrating him, whilst his electorate have started to see past the wave of hollow optimism which ushered in his presidency.

Obama becomes the fourth American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and by far the fastest. Previously Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter have won the prize, but they had to wait five, six and 25 years respectively after their inauguration before becoming laureates. This context makes Obama’s nine months to win the prize all the more ludicrous. I am certain that the smooth-talking president will come out with a statement of modesty, and so he ought. His work to bring about world peace has only just begun.

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One For The History Books?

Can you smell what Barack is cooking?
Can you smell what Barack is cooking?

This has been the week that Obamamania reached fever pitch, and let me say first off, I’m very glad that he won. Barack Obama will make a much better president of the USA than John McCain, and with his powerful majority in congress, he is in a position to bring about big changes in American foreign, economic and environmental policy.

But let’s not get carried away. A great number of reports marked this as an historic event, a momentous occasion, a new dawn (if you would believe the words of the great man himself). This seems a bit sensationalist to me. Of course having a black man in the white house is a landmark victory for the civil rights movement, but from here on in the rhetoric from Team Barack will change. Let’s not forget just how serious the global economic problems are, or the fact that the Middle East is as unstable as it’s ever been. Obama’s rhetoric in his campaign was fantastically well-aimed at cultivating an aura of hope and excitement around his policies. Now he must force all of America to lower its expectations, or we will all be severely disappointed when we find out that he can’t actually walk on water.

This has all been said before this week, and much more cogently, by Martin Samuel and Matthew Parris at the Times. What I think I can bring to the table however, is the question of Obama making history.

It’s easy for us to look at this week and be pretty damn chuffed that the Americans have elected the first black man to run their country. But, as Orwell once put it, history is written by the winners, and this holds true even in these modern times. At my delightfully backward-thinking Private school where I toiled away for seven of my teenage years, we were taught that nothing can be considered history until 50 years have passed. We need this distance and perspective to accurately and objectively judge the actions of political leaders. Anything more recent, we were told, was just Politics. Whilst this may be a step too far, I think we need more than four days to judge an event to be historical. We need about four years.

The tenure of Barack Obama as President of the USA will be judged on results and not origins. The true measure of his success will be gauged in four years time. If he can bring about the changes he promises, then America stands to become a much better place. Furthermore if he can win a second term in office then he will have a great opportunity to shape the future of America. Until then it is important that we are cautiously optimistic. Piling any hyperbolic expectation on his shoulders will only make it even harder for him to really get a grip on his new job.

Obama on the Home Straight?

With nine days still to go before the American Presidential election, many are already calling this a one-horse race.
On Roy Greenslade’s Media Guardian blog today, he highlights that Alaska’s biggest newspaper title, The Anchorage Daily News, has ditched Sarah Palin and formally endorsed Barack Obama as the best man for the job.
Yet, Roy also points out that Alaska is still seen as a Republican stronghold, so maybe this will make little difference on November 5th. Do local newspaper’s editorial stances really hold that much sway over their areas?
Newspaper endorsements aside, can anyone really see Obama losing from such a strong position?
Not the BBC.
Today they published 5 expert projections, all predicting an Obama win.
Ben Macintyre from The Times suggests the Tom Bradley effect could come into play, but many discredit this idea, calling it outdated.
For my part, I’m looking forward to a historic election result, but can’t rule out the off-chance that Americans will side with an experienced conservative in these times of high economic crisis.